Given the tight state budget, the Alaska Board of Fisheries is considering a change that could expedite consideration of some proposals a little.
Alaska’s Board of Fisheries considers possible changes to each of the state’s fisheries every three years. But later this month, the board will consider changing that process so that some proposals get added to a consent agenda, hopefully shortening the length of each meeting.
As nearly every facet of state government grapples with budget cuts, the Board of Fisheries is looking at moving a little more quickly through some of the proposed fishery regulation changes each year.
Right now, nearly every regulation change goes through the same process. They’re submitted by the public and the department of fish and game in the spring, and added to the proposal book published by fall. Each change is considered separately, with a time for discussion and public comment, at the appropriate meeting. BOF Executive Director Glenn Haight said this would speed things up a little, so some proposals could get approved in one batch.
“If there are some technical proposals that may not be terribly controversial, impactful, but make sense, a lot of times at board members you see these things go through with very little public comment, no objection, it’s those kind of things the board will take a look at it in advance and expedite the review of," Haight said. The department of fish and game would make some recommendation on what proposals to put on that consent agenda, and then a board of fish committee would decide what went on that agenda.
“Those would be identified in advance of a meeting so people could respond if they disagreed with the potential for those being on a consent agenda," he said. "Once we got into a regulatory meeting, those proposals would be identified. You would want to go past public testimony so people could voice concern about a particular proposal based on that consent agenda. And if the board members felt the need to pull any one of those proposals off that consent agenda they could do it. And then (the proposal) would run through the typical deliberations. And any board member could pull any proposal off (the consent agenda)."
Haight says the consent agenda idea is modeled after what some local governments already do. He said less controversial proposals would end up on it - like changing to GPS coordinates and other regulation changes.
“Of course, none of the weighty issues would be a consent agenda," he said. "Registration and Port Heiden for instance. None of that would be even considered for something like this I can’t imagine. One of the things we’ve seen a lot in recent history is the department trying to update its navigational markers, and its using GPS more. That’s a really common one. Another type I’ve seen, not as common, but sometimes the department will want to put into regulation a practice they’ve been doing. That’s been typical and they’ve been doing for years and it’s just not in regulation.”
Haight said the changes also could result in a more streamlined process to delegate some proposals to the department. Right now, the board delegates things from time to time - but typically, that happens after a proposal goes through the whole consideration process. Haight said that one such issue cropped up a couple years ago, with a proposed change to regulations dealing with amphibians. Technically those fall under the board's jurisdiction, but there weren't any statues for the board to change. So after considering the proposal like normal, they delegated the work to the department.
That procedural change is one of three items on the agenda for the seven-member board's May 24 meeting, which will be held via teleconference and also streamed online. The agenda also includes a discussion of where to hold the 2018 Southeast Alaska finfish and shellfish meeting, and an update on next year’s budget. Haight said he doesn't expect the board to take any action regarding the budget, but he'll provide a general update on where things stand right now.
“The session isn’t over yet, and so we don’t know what our final budget will be or how things will play out. At this point, we have the same size budget as last year so we haven’t taken any cuts," he said. "And that’s been purposefully done through the department and I think the legislature’s honored that. Given that next year’s a fairly expensive meeting cycle – Cook Inlet’s coming up, both lower and upper, Kodiak. A couple other meetings. Board of Game has two more meetings. We may not have enough money to complete it as normally planned.”
Public comment will be taken through May 20, but not at the meeting.